The Christian View of Immigrants and Refugees

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Last year, my pastor took an unimaginable break away from talking about discipleship to cover some "hot topics." One of these was how a Christian should respond to the issue of immigrants and refugees. I have a friend who quit his job to work with the issue. I have friends who are vehemently pro-refugees, and family who would rather lock up the borders and throw the key in the fires of Mt. Doom. If I've taken away anything the last couple of days, it's that the situation is complicated.

There are several different categories of refugee. Asylum-seekers are something else altogether. As are immigrants, and work VISA or student VISA holders. Some are vetted by the UN, some by the US, and others barely at all. Refugees sent to the US by the UN are vetted extremely thoroughly, and there are no instances of terrorist acts committed in the US by such refugees — although I admit that qualification is becoming ever more narrow.

It wasn't so complicated in Old Testament Israel. Abraham and his descendants travelled around, settling for long periods of time, without owning more than a single field. In the Mosaic Law, God told Israel to accept resident aliens — with caveats, such as they were to observe the Sabbath, even if they didn't convert to Judaism (Exodus 23:12). But God was clear that the Israelites were to welcome refugees and immigrants, remembering that they had been aliens in Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34; 24:22).

We are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament. God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, and no other country is obliged to follow it. The US is not even beholden to the laws and convictions given in the New Testament. We are not a Christian nation; there is no such thing. We are a sovereign secular nation with the authority to make civil law as we see fit. But there are two things to consider.

The first is corporate righteousness and its relationship to common grace. God gave Israel specific laws and told them that if they followed them, He would bless them. Some are obsolete, like the sacrificial/priest system. Some are good ideas no matter where you live, like a thief giving recompense for what he took. If we were to follow God's laws, we would be acting as He designed us, and would be naturally blessed. The laws He gave about the alien and the sojourner should at least inform our decisions.

The second is about personal righteousness in the form of love, and comes at us from Matthew 22:34-40:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
"...You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." We are called to love, and the Mosaic Law is comprised of examples on how to do that. One of those laws is to be kind and accepting to foreigners.

One thing my pastor mentioned was that he did not have an answer as to what the refugee and immigration laws should be. Most of us don't (despite what we may insist), and very likely God has not put us in a position where we're supposed to. But He has made it clear that no matter what our leaning, it should always come from love. Not fear of potential danger. And not love only for those closest to us (Luke 15:11-32). God respects our country as a sovereign nation, but His followers are primarily in a different Kingdom completely (Philippians 3:20). One where we demonstrate love and righteousness in the context of our earthly situation and location.

My point is simply that as believers, we are required to come to the refugee/immigrant situation with the love and righteousness of Christ. The same that sent Him to the cross. Anything less is un-Christian.

This post is being written on the heels of President Trump's suspension of refugees and immigrants from seven countries. Many Christ-followers are horrified that those who have waited so long to come here have to wait even longer. One good thing I see is that it has provided an opportunity for the Christian community to display their pro-refugee sentiments. But there are more useful ways to help than ranting on social media. Here are a few organizations that could use practical help:

Lutheran Family Services, Refugee & Asylee Programs
Bethany Christian Services Refugee and Immigrant Services
World Relief
There are many others that are state-specific; just Google "refugee services [your state]"

See also:
Ed Stetzer, "Dear Fellow Christians: It's Time to Speak Up for Refugees" and "Evangelicals, we cannot let alternative facts drive U.S. refugee policy"
Russel Moore, Letter to President Trump

Image Credit: AlexVan; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | God-Father  | Jesus-Christ

comments powered by Disqus
Published 1-31-17